Children's Book Illustrator
Eric M. Strong
Raster Images vs Vector Images
What the heck is a vector image anyway? And how do you tell if an image is a raster? When should you use a vector image and which type of image should you be asking your artist for? Sit back and relax because I’ll be answering all these questions and more!
A raster image uses pixels, or tiny squares, to create a picture. A raster image is similar to a puzzle with each piece being a different color. Your camera takes raster images. Popular raster image file types are .jpeg, .png, and .gif
Raster images are popular for the internet and print. This technology has been around since the beginning of the camera so it very popular. The disadvantage is that if the files can take up a lot of memory and the images become pixelated, or fuzzy, if they are blown up too large.
A vector image uses code, or mathematical equations, to create a picture. A vector image is like a set of blueprints that tells your software program what to display on your monitor. Popular vector file types are .eps, .dwg, and .svg
The advantage of vector images is that the file size is usually smaller than raster images and they look the same no matter what size you scale them too. You can use the same file to make a stamp or a billboard and the quality will remain the same.
The disadvantage is that this technology is somewhat newer and is not quite up to the quality of raster images. Vectors are great for cartoons and logos, but generally have not had been good to use for more realistic images and graphics. The programs that create vector images, like Adobe Illustrator, still cannot produce the same effects that raster image programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, can.
In my opinion vector images are the wave of the future. This technology is rapidly improving and I believe will make raster images obsolete in the foreseeable future. Think of raster images as the record and vector images as the CD or MP3.
Vector images have just recently been recognized by web browsers and are just starting to look more lifelike. Many printers are starting to require vector image files from their clientele. In short vector images are becoming the new standard.
The conversion technology from raster to vector is also rocketing forward. Vector programs can take an existing raster image and convert it into a vector image with a slight loss of quality. It seems only natural that this step will eventually be eliminated. This means that cameras in the future will start taking vector images.
My recommendation is to obtain vector images from your artist whenever feasible. This is not always a viable option, but it is defiantly where the industry is headed. Even if the technology to display the vector image is not quite here, the technology to create them is in full swing. Your artist can create a raster image from a vector without any loss of quality whatsoever.
You’ll be ahead of the game if you start collecting vector images now and save yourself the trouble of converting your raster images to a vector format later on.